Appeal from the Orders of the Court of Common Pleas of Schuylkill County in the case of Tremont Township, Pine Grove Area School District, Minersville Area School District and Reilly Township v. Schuylkill County Tax Claim Bureau and Spruce Creek Energy Company, Inc., No. S-515-1983.
Richard L. Caplan, Schwartzman & Hepps, with him, Joseph H. Jones, Jr., Williamson, Friedberg & Jones, Schuylkill County Solicitor, for appellants.
Lanny G. Felty, for appellees, Tremont Township and Reilly Township.
Richard A. Adams, for appellee, Pine Grove Area School District.
Edward E. Kopko, for appellee, Minersville Area School District.
President Judge Crumlish, Jr., and Judges Craig, MacPhail, Doyle, Barry, Colins and Palladino. Opinion by Judge MacPhail.
[ 104 Pa. Commw. Page 339]
Spruce Creek Energy Company, Inc. (Spruce Creek) and Schuylkill County Tax Claim Bureau (Bureau), sometimes collectively referred to herein as Appellants, appeal from orders of the Schuylkill County Court of Common Pleas which disapproved a proposed private sale of delinquent tax properties to Spruce Creek.
At the heart of the matter now before us is a Private Land Sale Agreement (Agreement) dated March 24, 1983 wherein Schuylkill County (County), the Bureau and the Schuylkill County Board of Commissioners were designated as Grantor and Spruce Creek was designated as Grantee. The essence of the Agreement is that the Grantor therein grants an option to Spruce
[ 104 Pa. Commw. Page 340]
Creek "to purchase and mine let" certain targeted tracts of real estate totaling approximately 6500 acres held by the Grantor and more specifically described in the Agreement, together with certain easements also more fully described in the Agreement, for an in situ coal gasification project. The term of the option is four years. As consideration, Spruce Creek agrees to pay $60,000.00 to Grantor upon execution of the Agreement, of which sum $10,000.00 was to be paid to the County "in its corporate, governmental capacity rather than as Trustee or agent for the tax-delinquent lands" and $50,000.00 each year thereafter during the term of the option. Upon exercising its option, Spruce Creek is obligated to pay the sum of $2,190,000.00, less any sums paid for the option.
It appears that the real estate in question has been delinquent for tax purposes for many years.
The Agreement states that the Grantor's authority to grant the option is found in Section 614 of the Real Estate Tax Sale Law (Law), Act of July 7, 1947, P.L. 1368, as amended, 72 P.S. § 5860.614.
Upon being notified of the proposed sale as then provided in Section 613 of the Law, 72 P.S. § 5860.613, the Taxing Districts*fn1 affected thereby petitioned the court of common pleas to disapprove the sale.
While those proceedings were pending, the County's Board of Elections approved the following non-binding referendum question for the April, 1984 ballot: "Do you approve of underground burning of anthracite coal in Schuylkill County?" The response to the referendum was overwhelmingly ...